By Volunteer Shritama Sarkar, FHI Bangalore
Often the social evils plaguing our society today ranging from casteism, gender discrimination and racial abuse have a common origin. Children are innocent beings permeable to any conditioning given to them, whether good or bad in their childhood. The things they are exposed to often shapes them to be who they are in the future and hence measures to curb such social evils have largely been a failure as it’s ingrained into a person for years if not decades.
How do we teach children who are too young to understand the complexities of these social evils? How do you boil these issues down to simple terms to convey a positive message to children?
Yesterday, I was having a cup of tea with my grandmother when she said it is the Age of Downfall. All the social evils are the most prominent in this age and are inevitable. There was just one thing that occurred to me, is it the age controlling us or we controlling the age and somehow I found peace with the dilemma. In my opinion, change is going to occur in this world but there is nothing more powerful than the mind and it’s thoughts which control our actions.
If so much power lies in our thoughts, it’s of utmost importance to take care of them. Before thoughts become habits it’s crucial to make sure they’re not destructive, right from the beginning.
For the thought to go the right way, it’s the perspective that needs to go the right way. I would never be able to think of empowering women if I see restriction on a menstruating woman to a religious place as saving the purity of god instead of seeing her purity being questioned because she’s bleeding. I would never be able to think of fighting for inter caste marriage if I see the tradition without logic and respect it blindly instead of seeing it as a tradition demeaning love. When the young minds are asked to think and see, they’ll have the exact ideas the world needs to heal.
Perspective can be built through several ways :
Introducing kids to unfamiliar situations
So the idea behind this is to make the unfamiliar familiar, make the uncomfortable comfortable. Activities that involve putting kids into situations that are foreign to them would help them normalise them in their minds. This would help them develop tolerance in a world where we see instances of intolerance so prevailing. Say, if kids are asked to complete some tasks considering an impairment in them, they’ll walk into their shoes and come out to be more sensitive to the underprivileged than they were before.
Experiencing culture diversity
When kids are introduced to songs, cuisines, practices, art, etc. of different cultures, they would take them in with an open mind. Since kids are too young to know the existing stereotypes in society they’ll empathise and mingle with the variety before they’re introduced to judgements. The children and the volunteers can share the uniqueness of their cultures with everyone through innovative ways.
Story is the best opportunity to empathize in a very safe setting. When you tell kids a story, they’ll be able to gain a perspective about how people feel when good or bad things happen to them. It would also teach them to be mindful and aware before acting because they’ll be more sensitive to the needs of others around them.
Emphasize on listening
Listening deeply and intently is very important to gain perspective and social sensitivity. Sharing time and attention are the holiest things to share.
Once we help kids gain perspective, it would strengthen their conscience and that would never leave them astray.